Many of us are networking by meeting people online and collecting business cards at live events. Ideally, we will follow-up with those we have met with a “Good meeting you” email, but then what?
Here are some tips for moving from a contact to a mutually beneficial business relationship.
1. Clearly understand who you want to meet. How would you describe the perfect client or customer for your business? This could be by title, function, industry, location, income, age, gender or any combination of attributes. It is also helpful to have a profile of your ideal partners, suppliers and anyone else who is important to your professional success. In addition to being clear in your own mind about who you want to connect with, defining the criteria that fit your ideal prospect helps you search for contacts with tools such as LinkedIn and other online databases.
2. Try to listen twice as much as you speak, when you meet someone for the first time. The more you can learn about what is important to them personally and professionally, the better off you will be. Unless you are incredibly fascinating, most people are more likely to remember you if they did most of the talking during your initial conversation.
3. Think about how you can help others. When you make a habit of being genuinely helpful without any expectation of return, it does come back to you. This help could take the form of sharing valuable information, referring business to someone you met, advice or making an introduction.
4. Follow up with new connections after meeting them. Relationships must be nurtured and touching base by phone or email after your initial meeting is an important starting point. You want to do this while you are still fresh in the mind of your new acquaintance. A phone call is warmer than an email, though you will often get their voice mail. Just have in mind what you want to say in your voice message if you have to leave one. Email has the advantage of being quick, non-intrusive and makes it easy for them to send you a reply.
5. Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn and learn more about them from their Profile. As your relationship develops, you may find that they have connections on LinkedIn that you would like to be introduced to.
6. Periodically stay in touch with individuals in order to keep building the relationship. For those high on your priority list, there is nothing better than having lunch or even dinner together, particularly if you can arrange it so you are not pressed for time. Sharing a meal and getting to know someone personally totally changes the dynamic of your relationship as you move from a business acquaintance to a friend.
7. Maintain contact via email, phone, social media and even snail mail since face to face meetings are not always practical. Relationships take time to develop and there are only so many hours in the day, so it is important to have a clear idea of where to invest your time.
These suggestions can help you turn contacts into business. Please share what has worked for you as far as building business relationships.